WEIR MINERALS AFRICA BENEFITS AS MINING SURGES

Weir Minerals Africa, part of the LSE-listed Weir Group, is currently performing strongly, more than maintaining its share of the African market and also moving into new geographies on the continent such as Nigeria.

“Overall, we have a healthy order book,” says Rajen Govender, interim Regional Managing Director of Weir Minerals Africa. “The current surge in commodity prices has given a big boost to the mining industry, which has led not only to mine owners pushing up production from existing facilities but also to new projects being approved. As a supplier of a wide range of minerals processing equipment, we’re obviously benefitting from this upturn in activity.”

He adds that Weir Minerals Africa, like most suppliers, is susceptible to the current global shipping constraints which have arisen as a result of the COVID pandemic and other contributing factors but says the company is managing this problem in close association with its customers to ensure minimal impact on their operations.

“These constraints have also led us to look at a greater degree of local manufacture,” he states. “We already have a considerable local manufacturing capability at our Alrode and Isando premises in Johannesburg and our Heavy Bay Foundry in Gqeberha but there is scope for this to be expanded. We have a team looking at the options right now.”

Weir Minerals Africa provides products and systems for slurry transportation, mine dewatering, crushing and grinding, classification and separation, wear lining, corrosion protection and tailings management. Among its world-class brands are Warman®, GEHO®, Cavex®, Enduron®, Trio®, Linatex® and Isodry™. The broad range of equipment available enables Weir Minerals Africa to provide its customers with integrated solutions addressing every part of the minerals cycle.

While the South African market remains an integral part of the company’s business, the rest of Africa is becoming increasingly important and now accounts for over 50 % of the revenue. “We’re seeing good growth in the SADC region and in West Africa, and we can also report a significant turnaround in East Africa and Central Africa, notably Tanzania and the DRC respectively,” Govender notes. “We’re also excited to have secured our first major order in Nigeria.”

The Nigerian order – for an iron ore project – is substantial and has seen the supply of equipment for screening, washing, grinding and pumping. The order includes Trio® jaw and cone crushers and apron feeders, Enduron® vibrating screens, an Enduron® high pressure grinding roll (HPGR), Trio® coarse washers and a blade mill, as well as Warman® slurry pumps. The vibrating screens for the project, which is due to be commissioned shortly, include two massive 51-tonne double-deck banana screens manufactured in South Africa.

Govender says a major focus area for Weir Minerals Africa is sustainability. “When we talk about sustainability, we’re talking about reducing energy consumption, saving water and cutting emissions across every aspect of our operations, including our offices and manufacturing plants,” he explains. “We’re making good progress with this in South Africa and our foundry in Gqeberha, for example, has recently received a divisional award for its water harvesting initiative.

“We’re also, of course, prioritising energy savings in our products, allowing them to run more efficiently and with lower consumption without productivity being compromised.” He adds that the Enduron® HPGR technology can achieve energy savings of up to 40 % in crushing and grinding, which are traditionally amongst the most energy intensive processes in mining.

Govender also emphasises that Weir Minerals has a continuous programme of investment in digital technology and points to its Synertex® Industrial Internet of Things (IITT) platform as a major step forward for the company. It allows data from machines to be captured and analysed, with the major benefits being energy optimisation, reduced maintenance and enhanced productivity.

SANDVIK OFFERS FLEXIBLE PARTS MANAGEMENT OPTIONS

With a corporate focus on facilitating predictive maintenance through the flow of real-time data on its equipment, Sandvik Mining & Rock Solutions offers various parts supply and management options to suit customers’ needs.

Among the options, according to Amith Ganasram, business line manager – parts commercial at Sandvik Mining & Rock Solutions, is Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI).

“To streamline the availability of spare parts, our people can be on site with an inventory of stock that we manage,” says Ganasram. “The main advantage here is that this makes parts available to the customer at reduced lead times.”

He notes that his team works with the customer’s operational staff on site, as well as with the service teams from Sandvik Mining & Rock Solutions. This means that uptime can be optimised, as the right parts are readily available when they are required.

Alternatively, customers may prefer to opt for a stock model that is based on consignment. Under this arrangement, the customer manages a parts holding on their own site, but they only pay for what they consume.

“We can conduct a regular audit every couple of weeks, for example, to check that the stock level is well balanced with the parts that are actually used,” he says.

Every effort is made to allow customers to leverage the value of OEM components, as their inherent quality safeguards the lifecycle of machines, minimising any unplanned downtime which could lead to lost production and revenue.

“We make it easy for customers to standardise on OEM parts, by creating bundled offerings when they purchase equipment,” he says. “This allows the customer access to high quality parts at a discount, when they take advantage of a total offering with new equipment.”

Through its advances in fleet data monitoring (FDM) solutions, Sandvik Mining & Rock Solutions offers customers digital tools to track the performance and condition of their equipment. This includes prediction of key indicators like Mean-Time-Between-Failure (MTBF), so that servicing and parts supply can be better planned. All these factors contribute to safer and smoother operations, with the lowest total cost of ownership for operating equipment.

MORE LOCAL ARTISAN SKILLS DEVELOPED AT VENETIA

As Murray & Roberts Cementation continues to push skills development throughout its projects, local community member Abram Sebola has recently graduated as a qualified electrician from the company’s learnership scheme.

Sebola, who has been working for Murray & Roberts Cementation since April 2015, is the second local artisan produced from the company’s team at the Venetia Underground Project (VUP) near Musina in Limpopo province. He began his three year apprenticeship in 2019. The company has been the lead contractor on the VUP project since 2014, which includes the sinking, equipping and commissioning of two vertical shafts and a decline shaft.

“The highlight of my journey towards becoming an artisan has been the vast knowledge that I have been exposed to in the electrical field on this project,” he says. “I have also been exposed to different working areas, and different supervisors; this has assisted me in establishing valuable relationships with different role-players on all levels – helping to make my journey interesting and full of learning.”

His interest in the electrical field had developed while working as an engineering assistant on VUP, and he successfully applied to his employer to become an electrical apprentice. According to Murray & Roberts Cementation chief engineer at VUP, Shadrack Ntsele, the company provides accredited training at its world class facility at Bentley Park near Carletonville. Practical aspects of Sebola’s learnership were then conducted under qualified supervision on site.

Murray & Roberts Cementation has since the inception of the project developed employees from the local labour sending area not only in the engineering field but has also assisted individuals to obtain their blasting tickets. Ntsele explains that this forms part of the on-site development model where the objective is to recruit at the lowest levels and develop higher level skills from within the project, ensuring that employees get the opportunity to progress from general worker to utility vehicle driver, dump truck driver all the way to LHD operator and beyond.

“By following this model, we contribute to the continuous upliftment of the local communities in the area,” he says. “We value all our employees, and it gives us great pleasure to see them grow with our project.”

Sebola says he looks forward to sharing knowledge with others as he applies his trade in his future career.

“Of course, I still feel quite new in my status as a qualified artisan, and will focus on gaining experience in the next few years,” he says. “I hope that the hard work I put in from my side will help ensure that we can grow the Murray & Roberts Cementation brand at Venetia.”

Having achieved this life-changing milestone, his advice to others is to invest their time in something they are truly committed to. “When you are passionate about something, working on this will result in you being happier with your life,” he says.

ENERGY EFFICIENT WATER PUMPS SAVE COSTS AND PLANET

Energy costs continue to rise, and the pressure is on for the private sector to create a more sustainable, low-carbon economy; what better time for companies to optimise energy usage on their water pumps?

“Original equipment manufacturers like Grundfos have been working hard for many years to make our pumps more energy efficient,” says Nicolette Gomes, senior service sales specialist at Grundfos. “I am still surprised that  few pump users take advantage of the opportunity to improve their bottom line by cutting energy costs – at the same time reducing their carbon footprint.”

Doing this requires firstly a clear picture of a company’s current energy costs, says Gomes, so Grundfos offers an ‘Energy Check’ service to help establish the foundation for a considered solution. This involves a service engineer visiting the site and collecting  data from pumps and motors, as well as basic energy consumption indicators.

“From this data, we produce an analytical report that shows where improvements can be made,” she says. “Knowing exactly what our energy-efficient Grundfos systems can achieve, we can compare these expectations to the current situation; in our experience, the savings can be up to 30%.”

The information contained in these reports also includes the new system’s lifecycle costs and its return on investment (ROI). She highlights that some customers’ energy savings have paid off the new equipment in less than two years, after which the system provides ongoing and substantial savings in operational costs.

“A useful rule of thumb is to look at the age of the pumps in your existing arrangement – and if they are older than six or seven years, then an upgrade invariably makes perfect financial sense,” she says. “Where the capital outlay can be recouped in three years or less, it is usually an easy decision to make.”

Where data is more difficult to gather – for instance, where nameplates have been removed or are not legible – Grundfos can also conduct a more intensive Pump Audit. Using a range of equipment from a specialised audit kit, the service engineer will install flow meters and pressure transducers, and measure kilowatt ratings of pumps.

“This will log data for five to seven days, to create a detailed load profile for the customer,” she said. “An added benefit is that the cost of this audit is deducted should they decide to go ahead with our Grundfos  solution.”

This intervention is of particular interest to the head of engineering in a plant or facilities manager in a building, whose key performance indicators (KPIs) are often linked to the cost-effectiveness of their operations – as well as the carbon emissions generated.

“With services like our Energy Check and our Energy Audit, we can help key personnel to achieve their KPIs in relation to energy consumption,” she concludes.

ACQUISITIONS STRENGTHEN MINING CONTRACTOR’S CAPABILITY

The global Mining Platform of Murray & Roberts has significantly extended its capabilities over the past several years with two key acquisitions in the US and Australia, says Mike da Costa, CEO of the platform.

The two companies in which majority interests have been acquired are San Diego-based Terra Nova Technologies in the US, a materials handling specialist, and Australian start-up Insig Technologies, which develops and provides digital solutions in the mining field.

Terra Nova designs, supplies and commissions overland conveyors, crushing/conveying systems, mobile stacking systems and in-pit crushing and conveying systems. It has delivered around 75 projects in more than 15 countries.

“Terra Nova is a perfect fit for M&R’s Mining Platform and gives us the capability of delivering, for example, conveying systems of up to 12 000 t/h capacity,” observes da Costa. “Its biggest market is North America but it is also active in South America and has an office in Santiago in Chile. It has, in fact, just won a major contract in Chile. Our intention is to grow the business by leveraging our global footprint. We will soon establish an Australian arm and we could also bring the company’s services to the African market.”

Commenting on the Insig Technologies acquisition, da Costa says the company is playing a key role in the Mining Platform’s move towards greater digitalisation of its operations.

“We’ve been working on a digital strategy for the Mining Platform for some time now and the acquisition of Insig is central to our digital journey,” he says. “Insig’s speciality is extracting data from underground mining environments in real time and then using this data to optimise operations. The company also has in-depth capability in the remote control of machines. We will be using its systems in house initially but will eventually market them to the wider mining industry.”

Interestingly, Insig is playing a key role in developing an energy-saving solution at an Australian mine where our Australian company is working. “Basically, we’re looking at capturing the energy that would normally be wasted in a hoisting shaft and storing it in batteries,” da Costa explains.

The Murray & Roberts Mining Platform consists of three regional businesses. These are Murray & Roberts Cementation, headquartered in Johannesburg but with branches in Kitwe in Zambia and Accra in Ghana; Cementation Americas (which incorporates Cementation USA), based in Salt Lake City, which handles the Americas; and RUC Cementation, which operates out of Perth in Australia and works throughout Australasia and south-east Asia.

ZEST WEG E-HOUSE SOLUTION POWERS LARGE PLATINUM HIG MILL

A purpose-designed electrical house (E-House) from Zest WEG is driving one of the largest new High Intensity Grinding (HIG) mills in the southern hemisphere, which was recently installed at a platinum mine in South Africa’s North West province.

The size and operational parameters of the mill place demanding requirements on the equipment in the E-House, according to Tyrone Willemse, senior proposals manager at Zest WEG. Constructed in South Africa incorporating a range of products –  produced and distributed by Zest WEG, the E-House design also delivers world class standards of safety and fire protection.

“The key benefit of the prefabricated E-House concept is the time it saves the customer and the high level of quality that can be ensured through its construction and testing under ideal workshop conditions,” he says. “The process is also streamlined as the complete project falls under a single provider, who takes full responsibility for delivering on-time and on-budget.”

This E-House includes the HIG mill’s variable speed drive (VSD) and all its associated auxiliary circuits and starters. A range of WEG transformers and motors are also part of this project. With its extensive in-house expertise, Zest WEG generates fully detailed designs for its E-Houses, using 3D computer assisted design (CAD) software.

“For this application, the E-House consists of a medium voltage (MV) room and a low voltage (LV) room,” he notes. “The MV room houses the well-known WEG MVW01 VSD, with an integral oil type 12 pulse transformer manufactured locally at our transformer manufacturing facility in Wadeville.”

Willemse explains that the WEG MVW01 makes use of high voltage insulated-gate bipolar transistors (IGBTs), which lower the amount of power electronics needed. This also reduces the mean time to repair (MTTR), so that operations can be quickly restored in the event of a major fault on the system.

“The WEG MVW01 powers a WEG 3.75 MW MGR eight pole 3.3 kV directly-coupled squirrel cage induction motor,” says Willemse. “This motor is specially designed to be vertically mounted to meet the HIG mill’s operation and maintenance requirements.”

Both the motor and the VSD were designed to meet the aggressive torque requirements during some phases of the mill’s operation. The combination comfortably handles the torque requirements that periodically exceed 170% for more than three minutes, giving the customer the necessary flexibility. The LV room contains the motor control centre (MCC) that feeds all the auxiliary circuits of the mill.

“Importantly, we have installed the newly arc-proof type-tested IEC 61641 WEG board, which has the best rating for personal protection,” he says. “In the event of an internal arc, the MCC is fitted with an explosion duct that transfers any explosion safely out of the building.”

Another aspect of the safety features is a comprehensive fire detection and suppression system that meets the customer’s demanding standards. The two rooms are fitted with their own fully automated room-flooding suppression systems, which can flood the space with gas that douses electrical fires but is not dangerous to humans.

“The system can detect smoke at a very early stage, and can also check against false triggering,” he says. “More than two smoke detectors must react, activating a loud bell for evacuation or cancellation, before flooding takes place.”

The LV room also houses WEG CFW11 LV VSDs, which feed premium efficient  WEG motors. The E-House’s small power and lighting circuits are fed by one of Zest WEG’s locally manufactured SANS780-compliant transformers.

GETTING PUMPS, SUPPORT CLOSER TO CUSTOMERS

Strengthening its distributorship footprint since 2014, Integrated Pump Technology today has a network through sub-Saharan Africa to assure customers of the supply and services they need.

According to Jordan Marsh, general manager at Integrated Pump Technology, the company focuses heavily on the mining sector so has chosen its distributors mainly from local firms with strong links to mines. Integrated Pump Technology is perhaps most well known as the distributor of the tough Grindex submersible pump range.

“It has been an exciting couple of years for us, in which we have appointed new distributors in Zimbabwe, Namibia, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),” says Marsh. “We have also added to our network a distributor for the Klerksdorp gold mining region, that will also cover Welkom and the Free State area.”

This accelerates the response time to customers, with distributors carrying a stock of basic spare parts and liaising directly with a key account manager from head office for technical and marketing support. The careful choice of distributors has ensured the right skills are available to help customers select and operate the optimal pump for the task.

“We provide our network with in-depth training on our specific products, and ongoing advice and guidance wherever they need it,” he says. “Our collaborative strategy also means that a key account manager will regularly accompany distributors on their visits to the end-customer.”

Marsh highlights that customers should feel well supported by both the distributor and the OEM, to be confident of optimal uptime and performance from their pump fleet. Manufactured in Sweden, Grindex pumps are used in tough environments such as mining, construction and marine applications.

Integrated Pump Technology’s overall network comprises 14 distributors to cover the main geographic areas of activity, with certain very busy mining areas – such as the Northern Cape and Rustenburg – being served by more than one.

CRUSHING PERFORMANCE STARTS WITH ALIGNED PRIORITIES

Under the pressure of demanding timelines and production targets, operations staff on a crushing site will always want the best equipment with the most responsive service offering. Too often, however, they are at odds with the procurement division, who can be over-focused on upfront capital costs and operational expenditure.

This tension is natural, explains Pilot Crushtec director of sales and marketing Francois Marais, but the answer lies in a strategic alignment of company priorities across all its functional units. This will ensure that the incentives of different parts of the business do not conflict.

“Successful companies are those who can direct all their resources in the same direction and towards a common goal,” says Marais. “In the crushing business, this means meeting production targets on time with optimal equipment uptime and the lowest possible cost of ownership in relation to output.”

Getting this equation right requires that companies have quick access to core information on product output and maintenance costs, but are also able to measure aspects that are more difficult to quantify – such as downtime and production losses. Over time, the business is able to identify whether its capital and operational expenditure are balanced in line with expectations. As importantly, it can continuously assess whether it is getting optimal value from its equipment investment.

“Without this kind of in-depth data, it can be difficult for businesses to know if their capital investments are effective in driving their value proposition to customers,” he says. “If a piece of equipment is purchased at a discount price, for instance, the business’s tracking maintenance costs should raise a red flag if that capex discount has been swallowed up in opex within months of the purchase.”

The focus on value-for-money, he emphasises, needs to be based on the output achieved from both the upfront investment and the ongoing costs of maintenance and repairs. Businesses also need a disciplined method of calculating the cost of project disruption due to unplanned downtime.

“The cost of unexpected equipment failure is much higher than the cost of regular maintenance, as the resulting disruption usually has knock-on effects across the project, including standing time of other equipment and human resources,” he says. “There may also be financial penalties payable if the contractor does not meet contractual obligations.”

Perhaps the most devastating impact of procuring equipment which does not deliver to expectation, however, is on the reputation of the business. He warns that unplanned breakdowns on site will always undermine the end-customer’s faith in a contractor’s promise to deliver. This puts future work in jeopardy and puts a brake on any efforts to build a lasting and reliable brand.

TRANSFORMERS THAT GIVE MINES BOTH SAFETY AND UPTIME

The priority area of mining today is certainly health and safety, and mines are wanting to achieve this without compromising on meeting their production targets; dry-type transformers are increasingly seen as one constructive way of doing this.

David Claassen, managing director of Trafo Power Solutions, says this is because of their F1 safety rating combined with their low maintenance needs and versatility across mining applications. Their fire safety characteristics include being self-extinguishing and flame retardant, and not emitting harmful gasses.

“Dry-type transformers contain no oil as a coolant, rather using air for cooling,” says Claassen. “This means a much lower safety and environmental risk, so that these units can be readily and safely employed in opencast and underground mines – even in hazardous and space-constrained areas.”

Trafo Power Solutions’ design capability ensures that its transformers can run optimally in even harsh conditions of high dust and moisture levels, while remaining sufficiently cool to reliably carry 100% load. The necessary levels of ingress protection are applied to ensure no dust or moisture enters the unit. This includes working with challenging commodities like coal and graphite.

“To accommodate the space and transport limitations of underground mines, we custom engineer transformers to fit into lift cages in vertical shafts or into decline shafts,” he says. “Our fit-for-purpose designs also ensure that the transformers can be installed with limited footprints in confined spaces.”

Cooling options where the transformer’s footprint is reduced include air-to-air heat exchangers, while for more extreme conditions the company can design and manufacture water-cooled transformers. For opencast mining operations, there is often a requirement for transformers to be moved regularly on skid-mounted platforms.

“This means ensuring a high structural integrity through rigid construction, so that the units can withstand vibration as they are frequently moved over rough terrain,” he says. “Under these conditions, mines can also rest easy that there is no risk of oil leaks from our units.”

He explains that Trafo Power Solutions conduct in-depth analyses of mine applications and conditions to inform its designs. Strategic partner TMC Transformers – a leading transformer manufacturer based in Italy – uses the latest thermo-dynamic software to simulate cooling across the transformers’ hotspots. Cooling options include natural ventilation and forced ventilation, with availability of air-to-air heat exchangers and auto heat exchangers.

“Mines can gain immediate safety benefits from dry-type transformers, while improving their operational uptime,” says Claassen. “With no oil to regularly check and change, our transformers are almost maintenance-free – cutting down on service costs and the related impacts of transformer downtime.”

Partnering with TMC Transformers, Trafo Power Solutions has access to a broad range of high quality cast resin transformers from 50kVA to 25MVA, at system voltages up to 52kV with Class F or Class H insulation systems.

PUMP STATION FAILURE CALLS FOR RAPID DEWATERING RESPONSE

There was no time to lose when dewatering specialist Integrated Pump Rental took a call from a long-standing customer recently; a vital pump station had gone down and they needed help urgently.

“The customer’s pump station was being refurbished, and its two pumps unexpectedly went down,” recalls Andre Strydom, rental development manager at Integrated Pump Rental. “These pumps performed a critical function for the customer, maintaining a constant flow of 200 m3/h per pump – over a one kilometre distance.”

What was required was an urgent water bypass solution to take over this duty while the in-situ pumps were attended to, and the pump station refurbishment went ahead. Within a day of the customer’s call, the nature of the application had been assessed and the quotation sent out. This was quickly followed up with the despatch of Integrated Pump Rental’s dewatering solution to site, where its pumps were rapidly commissioned.

“Having taken the call on day one, we had the pumps selected, delivered, commissioned and operational by day two,” says Strydom. The solution included the deployment of two diesel driven Allight Sykes high head dewatering pump sets, providing bypass water lines. These rental pump sets operated 24 hours per day to maintain the required flow rate through these pipelines.

“One of our primary advantages is that we can react with speed to our customers’ emergency dewatering situations,” he says. “This is because we operate a large and varied fleet of diesel driven dewatering pump sets, which are capable of dealing with different sizes of applications – each with their own operational requirements and site conditions.”

He also highlighted the team’s depth of knowledge in dealing with dewatering applications and their technical expertise. This allows them to apply expert judgement in identifying the most appropriate dewatering solution.

In this recent application, the two high head dewatering rental pumps remained on site until the pump station was completed and commissioned. Allight Sykes dewatering pumps, such as those selected for this application, are well known for their performance, efficiency and reliability.

Over the years, Integrated Pump Rental has built a strong reputation for its 24/7 service to industry, delivered for 365 days of the year. Irrespective of the dewatering application, the company can offer an appropriate solution, he says.

“The team prides itself on being able to respond to requests from customers at short notice,” says Strydom. “We understand that most requests for dewatering pump rentals are urgent, so they demand a rapid response with a solution that matches the needs of the job.”